How To Navigate the Holidays

It’s that time of the year again. Hard to believe it’s here. To say this year has been unusual is a bit of an understatement. In some ways this year seems to have flown by and yet in others it seems to have dragged relentlessly. The holiday season can often be a symphony of emotional chaos in the best of times. For most, this year has not been the best of times. And so, I wanted to share some simple tips to help you navigate the holidays this year.

Is this typically the season of joy for you? Or is stress your constant companion during the holidays? It can be challenging as we try to live into a Hallmark movie version of life. I invite you to be gentle with yourself … and others. For some, the holidays bring grief as we remember lost loved ones or struggle to navigate dysfunctional family dynamics (which seem amplified in contrast to idealized expectations). The season can bring overwhelm as we try to juggle the myriad of items on our ‘to do’ lists (especially this year with so many favourite shopping spots closed down). Added to that, this year brings a whole new set of potential pitfalls as the social isolation takes its toll.

It helps to remember that navigating the holidays is a negotiation and you get to choose how you negotiate it.

Step one is to negotiate with yourself about how you want to show up. It’s important to do this with intention as the holidays tend to be triggering. Past hurts resurface unexpectedly and can be toxic if not managed. Feelings of ‘not enough-ness’ can niggle into your consciousness if you’re not on guard. You may magnify imperfect aspects of your life (whether it’s no relationship, a poor relationship, body image issues, career, finances, health, living arrangements or something in between). Pet peeves can become exacerbated during this period of intensified emotion.

The pressure of expected perpetual joyful exuberance can create a shadow making it tough to see the light.

Here’s a few tips to avoid these potential soul-sucking pitfalls during the holidays:

Recognize that you may feel some negative emotions as you navigate the season this year. Many will be experiencing loneliness, isolation, fear, angst, worry, and grief. If you experience any of these emotions, you’re not alone. Allow yourself to feel the feelings. Identify where in your body you feel them most intensely. Send them love, staying with the feelings without judgement or expectation. You’ll find that the feelings dissipate when you allow yourself this simple recognition rather than repressing them. And once you’ve allowed yourself to feel them, get up, dust yourself off, and get intentional about changing to a more empowered and resourceful state.

Set an intention for how you want to show up during this holiday season. Choose 3 words that describe how you want to show up each day. What resonates with you? There’s no right or wrong answer. Post your 3 words on a sticky note on the bathroom mirror so you’re sure to see them as you get ready for bed each night and wake up each morning). Spend a moment each morning to embody them and consider how to implement them in the upcoming day. If you find yourself being reactive during the day, that’s okay. You’re human. Just take a deep breath. Breathe in your 3 words and find your way back.

In addition to setting an intention about how you want to show up, I invite you to set an intention about what you want to get out of the holiday experience. This helps ground you in the elements that most fulfill you rather than getting caught up in the ‘more, more, more’ mentality that can leave you feeling hollow and dissatisfied. If cooking a full turkey spread stresses you out, do pizza. If high end hostess skills leave you sweating, take a pass, do simple, and focus on being fully present instead.

Actively seek connection this holiday. Squeeze connection out of every interaction and opportunity. We’ve all been a little deprived in this department, missing human touch and in-person interface. Get your fix by being deliberate about creating social interactions, even if it’s with strangers as you run your errands.

Adopt a gratitude practice. It’s impossible to feel anger, resentment, worry, hurt or stress in a state of gratitude. You can do this anytime, but implementing a routine each morning and/or evening, where you consider 3 things you’re grateful for is an easy way to set a positive tone for embracing the holidays.

Remember that you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Choose your reactions with intention. This may take some practice if you’re lifelong conditioning is to give in to knee-jerk reactivity, but it’s well worth mastering this simple practice. For example, you can choose grace, forgiveness and joy over anger, resentment and hurt. This is true even (and especially) in family dynamics where old habits can cause easy patterned triggers of reactivity. Instead choose an emotional reaction that best serves you. Remind yourself that it’s always a choice.

Make time to exercise, even if it’s a brief walk. It’s easy over the holidays to neglect this habit. There are lots of excuses to justify opting out. You’ll note I said make time to exercise. We don’t find time. It’s incumbent on us to make time for our priorities. I invite you to set aside some time, even if it’s just 15 minutes/day to get some exercise. It will energize you and make you more productive and engaged, thereby ironically freeing up more time.

Get some fresh air. Ideally, you can tie your exercise above to this tip by walking outside. It can be tempting to hibernate indoors, whether snuggled up with a hot chocolate or tending to the seeming never-ending list of chores we set for ourselves. By all means, snuggle up with a hot chocolate (and Baileys) and also set aside a few minutes to get a breath of fresh air. Make this a priority. Fresh air gives you a fresh perspective. Clear your head, fill your lungs, and increase your energy while uplifting your mood and resilience.

Watch your diet. I’m not saying go on a diet. I’m not completely delusional. I’m just saying be intentional about your diet. By all means, indulge during the holiday season. Just do so in moderation. Do so by choice. Plan (or at least manage) your indulgences. In my experience, when you’re intentional about allowing yourself a set amount of self-gratification and excess, you’re more likely to stay on track. This simple practice can reduce brain fog and useless self-flagellation while increasing energy, productivity, and engagement.

Get sleep and be present. It can seem challenging with holiday parties, finalizing ‘must-do’ work assignments before the holiday break, gift-buying and get-togethers. I remember the days when we were up half the night stuffing stockings, setting up Santa gifts and wrapping the too-many last-minute gifts I’d got as I doubted whether I’d gotten ‘enough’ (whatever that is). My eyes felt like sandpaper and my cotton-batten stuffed head (at least that’s what it felt like) found it hard to be fully joyful Christmas morning as the kids invariably charged upstairs at the crack of dawn chirping “Can we start now? Can we? Can we start?” Again, I invite you to consider buying less ‘stuff’ and instead enjoying more experiential gifts. Either way, plan so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Make a point of getting enough sleep leading up to and through the holidays so that you can greet each day being fully present.

Manage your spending with intention. In a world where we’re inundated with marketing from all sides, and where the message is always that we need more, it’s easy to fall into the trap of empty over-spending. This causes high stress levels as we push outside our limits and carry debt that negatively impacts us through the holidays and well beyond. Consider instead, sharing experiences with the people you love. As trite as it may seem, it serves us all to remember that the things we buy will disappear but the memories we create will last a lifetime.

Celebrate yourself. We tend to beat ourselves up about our perceived shortcomings. Make it a point to celebrate your achievements, however big or small. Have a bubble bath, power down and listen to your favourite music, or engage in a decadent treat for yourself … because you deserve it!

Choose which of these simple tips resonate with you and make it a point to implement them. Set your intentions to navigate a more joyful, engaged holiday season.


Why not gift yourself or a good friend with our Women On Purpose Planner, designed and dedicated to helping you step into a purposeful and purpose-driven life!


control, family drama, get sleep, Holidays, intention

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